Thursday, February 28, 2019

February ~ Part Two

February is always a short month, but seemed especially brief this year since I was away for the first half.  Let me summarize few of the goings-on of the past two weeks and then I'll get back to blogging about our time 'down-under'.

We came home to snow...

...and sidewalks that needed to be shovelled.  I decided that clearing a 3 foot path to the front door was sufficient.  Who needs a 6' foot wide walkway?

Lovella turned sixty this month and is celebrating the milestone in many ways. What fun to be part of this birthday party last week....a surprise in a way. She surprised us!  Who knew we were going to a paint class?  We each took home our 'work of art'...but not before enjoying a birthday lunch together in a charming little tea house in the country.  Happy 60th birthday to a friend who has been an inspiration in so many ways this past decade!

We have made the trek down the freeway to Vancouver several times these past few weeks...for medical appointments.  On Monday morning we were at Eagle Ridge hospital bright and early for Elmer's wrist surgery.  It seems that wrist fusion is the only option for relieving the pain that he has been dealing with for years. His left wrist is done...and he was able to come home later that afternoon.  He will be sporting a cast for the next six weeks or so...and hanging around the house a lot. He's not so good at that!  He has books and Netflix, and a large jigsaw puzzle is on order.

At his point he is unable to hold anything in his left hand, but I found a way for him to play cards.  A section of a pool noodle inside a Starbucks mug is a great for support for a 'card holder' (the kind that are meant for seniors and kids).  Where there's a will there's a way!

My dad also had an issue this past week that required a visit to ER and a few early morning IV antibiotic treatments at the hospital.  Thankfully he is doing better again.  And he is very happy in his new home!

Also this month...Ranen took part in an Irish Dance competition in Killarney, Ireland. She danced next to the world champion at her level...and in her spare time, she visited Irish castles with her mom. What an opportunity for a 12-year old!

There are a few birds around that don't seem to mind that we are still having winter at the end of February!

In my corner of the valley we are mostly left with drifts and bare fields right now.

The coldest February on record is about to end. We hope that spring is just around the corner though there are still snow flurries in the forecast over the next few days.

I will take you back to heat of summer in my next post...the Australian Outback, where it was 43°C (110°F) during our visit.

Happy March!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast

 Welcome to Sydney...the largest city in Australia.

 What a great place to begin and end our 'down under' travels!

The Sydney Opera House is an iconic Australian landmark, featuring a roofline that resembles the sails of a yacht.  It was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1973 and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, we did not take in any performances.  But we had ice-cream cones on the steps!

Another famous landmark in Sydney is the Harbour Bridge...a grand old bridge, also known as the Coathanger that connects the business district with the north shore.

Climbing the bridge is legal and even encouraged. Bridge climbs happen daily and take 3.5 hours to reach the top. Apparently the view is fantastic from up there, but that was not enough to entice us to scale the 1332 steps. The oldest climber to date is Mrs. Chris Muller who climbed the bridge on her 100th birthday.

We stayed at a lovely hotel right on Darling Harbour and never ran out of things to see and do.

Since our visit also coincided with the Chinese New Year, we saw lots of  soaring pink pigs.

Apparently one cannot visit Sydney without checking out Bondi Beach.

We never even got sand between our toes...but we enjoyed watching the surfers for awhile.

About 1.5 hours from Sydney are the Blue Mountains...

...with the iconic Three Sisters, a huge rock formation in Katoomba.

We rode the scenic Skyway gondola across Jamison Valley with fantastic views of Katoomba Falls and surrounding peaks.

We visited Manly, a sea-side suberb of Sydney...

...and watched the dark clouds rolling in. And then we learned that our afternoon flight to the Gold Coast was cancelled due to the high winds. Instead we found ourselves  re-routed to Canberra. We had not intended to visit Australia's capital but we did!  They have a lovely, quiet airport. Eventually we arrived at the Gold Coast.

We spent three nights at Surfer's a room with a view.  From there we did day trips to Brisbane and beyond.

Brisbane is a lovely city.  We so enjoyed our tours with guides that had a wealth of knowledge wherever we went.

The Brisbane Botanical Gardens were lovely... was the area around South Bank Parkland.

The trees od Australia are so different than the trees in my neighbourhood.  Most are evergreen...shedding their bark rather than their leaves.  Gum trees, fig trees, banyan trees, palm trees and sausage trees.

Let me introduce you to a few of the animals we saw in Australia.  The Australia Zoo (of  The Crocodile Hunter fame) is on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane.

We saw lots of kangaroos...up close and personal.

And crocodiles. In action!

And sleepy koalas hanging around in the trees.

It was a great place to meet all the native animals of Australia... well as those imported from Africa.   Terri Irwin (Steve Irwin's widow) is still the owner of Australia Zoo.  Our visit there was time well spent!

We spent the last day of our vacation at the Gold Coast with absolutely no agenda.

After four weeks of traveling and touring we we ready for a day at the pool with a good book.

It was the perfect finale to our time at the Gold Coast.

My next post will cover our time in the Australian Outback.  Did I mention it was HOT?

Thanks for joining me on our travels.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Down Under and Home Again

It has been quiet here on my front porch for good reason. I have been ‘down under’ for the past while.

When I was still in my teens my parents took their first overseas trip, and that was to Australia.  They came home with tales of their adventure and a sheep skin that I still have. (Oh, and photos in the form of slides.  Many reels!)  I hoped that one day I would have the opportunity to visit the country as well, and some 47 years later it happened!

We flew Vancouver to Sydney direct, a 15 hour flight that wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. A little reading, a little movie watching, a little eating, a little snoozing. Repeat.  And again.  All on Air Canada economy class.  We lost a day on the way to Australia and found it in the return home.  Funny how that works.

We spent the first week on an ‘Australian Outback Tour’...which took us to Cairns, the Great  Barrier Reef, Alice Springs and Ayers Rock.  It was summer ‘down under’ and we now know what 43C feels like.  The seven hottest places in the world were all in Australia while we were there!

Once back in Sydney, we boarded a cruise ship for s 12-day cruise around New Zealand. We visited ports-of-call on both the North and South Island...

...Fiordland National Park where we viewed wildlife, waterfalls and glacier-carved fiords from our deck.

The cruise ended back in Sydney where it began.  We decided to stay one more week and spend some time on the Gold Coast. 

It is always the people we connect with along the way that make the journey memorable. We got to know many wonderful folk who were on the outback tour with us...mostly from the USA and UK.  Though we will likely never meet again, we are left with great memories.

And then there were the friends we traveled with. 

We have traveled with Dave and Janet since 1973, when we went on a missions trip together to Guadeloupe and Haiti.  Since that time we have have visited many places together...including Africa, London, Paris, Iceland, China, Israel, Hawaii and California.    Our friendship has survived business ventures, building projects, raising our families, school carpools, and all those many trips we have taken together.  They are forever friends and so easy to travel with.
I have a niece living in Brisbane, and our plan was to meet up with her at the end of our travels.  Unfortunately, she has not been well for some time and our planned rendezvous did not happen.  What a disappointment for us all!  My heart goes out to her as she deals with debilitating back issues and chronic pain.

We were however able to connect with a few other folks along the way.  Karen and Carla grew up in our community, picked raspberries for us in their teens and also played ball on a ladies ball team with me.  How could it be that both sisters married Aussies and have made their home in Sydney?  Karen invited us all for dinner one night; Carla and her family were there as well.  It was so nice to see them again, and meet their families. We won't soon forget our eel-fishing adventure in the creek next to their place that afternoon...or the lovely evening around the table.

In  Auckland, we met up with Sandy who was my next-door neighbour as a kid.  She moved to New Zealand when she got married and we lost touch until last year.  When she heard we would be in her part of the world, she volunteered to be our tour guide in Auckland. 

What a fabulous time we had with her and Ian. 

We arrived home yesterday to the aftermath of a winter storm. The first order of business after leaving the airport, was to dealing with a flat tire a mile or so down the road.  Thankfully we were back on the road before long.  The sun was shining and the storm had just passed through, but things had not been so calm earlier on.  Cars and trucks were strewn along the median of the freeway.

Not everyone got where they were going!  We were thankful to be home safe and sound once more.  We found our way in through the garage, and today we shoveled a path to the front door.  

I'll be sharing a few 'tales from the trail' as I unpack my photos.

Thanks for stopping by!